Split by a Kiss by Luisa Plaja

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Split by a Kiss by Luisa Plaja

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Josephine is trying to settle in her new school, but with her two possible new cliques poles apart, she's going to have to lose part of identity to fit in unless something drastic happens. Cue something drastic happening...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
ISBN: 978-0552556804

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Sixteen year old Josephine is secretly thrilled when her mother announces that they'll be spending an academic year in the USA because of her new job. She's thrilled because she just knows it's going to be amazing - she can forget everything that's happened in her past, and be the cool new British girl in school. She can step into a world that she just knows will be all cheerleaders and school dances and ice cream parlours open all hours. What's not to love?

When they make it to Boston, though, Josephine soon realises that high school is pretty much the same anywhere, and as the new girl she has a whole lot of rules to learn, and fast. Should she lean to her nerdier, good student side and hang out with the clever kids, or hype up the cool and go after the popular ones? Either way she's going to have to change some part of her because right now she's stuck in the middle of the two, partly one and partly the other, and it doesn't look like that's an option for her, at least not if she wants to have any friends.

At a party, everything changes when she's picked by one of the most popular boys to be his partner in one of those frightful kissing games. Snuggled up in a closet with him, she doesn't know what to do when his hands start to wander - accept it, even though she's uncomfortable, or put him in his place and say goodbye to any chance of fitting in. At this point Josephine is torn in two, literally - half of her becomes Josie the Cool, the other half Jo the Nerd - and the story continues, alternating between the two. As the two grow further apart, you get a really good sense of "what if... ?" from both sides.

As a rule I don't like kooky books that have an odd presentation or are written in a weird way, but this one really worked. You get two tales for the price of one, and two tantalising "will they or won't they?" stories, one for Jo and one for Josie. Comparisons to Sliding Doors spring to mind, but since I didn't especially like that film, but I did love this book, I'm not going to dwell on them.

The writing is amazing, and it's brilliant to see how the same Josephine can fit in with either of her new groups without changing herself all that much underneath - Josie doesn't actually turn into cool-girl over night, and some of Jo's nerdiness is a bit of an act too. It's more that the groups she falls in with draw out some parts of her more than others, but she's still subject to a whole lot of fish-out-of-water scenarios. And it's really fun when the same things happen to both parts of her but she now sees them in different ways, such as interactions with her mother, or her relationship with her friends back home.

This book is so witty, and the dialogue so genuine, that you really get the sense you are there as part of the story. Both the Jo and Josie incarnations are hilarious, both deliberately and unintentionally. The language and culture faux pas are beautifully captured, and she also says all the things I often thought at that age (of a particularly fake-cleavage inducing top: Will he notice that sometimes I have boobs and sometimes I don't?) What I liked most, thought, was that Josephine is a smart girl - in both her forms - and she stands out from some of the blonde clones she surrounds herself with, both in her intellect and in her down to earthiness. But, equally, when nerdy Jo is in the frame, you see someone who is still not entirely consumed by academia, but who also has thoughts of boys and clothes and everything else. In other words, she's a nice balance between the sort of character you often get in books like this, and the sort of character those aforementioned girls would tend to torment, and is all the more real and likeable for it.

From the moment I finished the first chapter, I took this book everywhere, and I mean everywhere - at one point I even climbed the stairs to my 10th floor office because it gave me more reading time than the lift would have done. It's rare to find a book like this - that has a brand new, never told before story, brilliant writing, lots of very realistic scenarios and some hilarious but usually overlooked characters. It really is the ultimate in teen fiction.

Thank you to the publishers for supplying this book. Two more great reads for teens or adults pretending to be teens are Good Girls and Flawless.

Buy Split by a Kiss by Luisa Plaja at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Split by a Kiss by Luisa Plaja at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Split by a Kiss by Luisa Plaja at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Split by a Kiss by Luisa Plaja at Amazon.com.


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